I notice the Sunday Start Times today picked up my story about Malcolm Gladwell’s theory (from Outliers) about the birth dates of top sports people and specifically how it relates to the All Blacks:

Early arrivals get jump start

The theory is that when age-group teams are selected those that are born just after the cut-off date have an advantage as they will be slightly older, and that advantage will then be compounded by the additional coaching and playing opportunities they have over the years, until they actually are better than others born later in the year.

And the data appears to back this up.

Here is a graph of the birth months of the 45 All Blacks from this year:


In this squad 55% of the players are born in the first four months of the year, where you would only expect this to be 33% if the dates were evenly distributed.

So, those of you who were born in the second half of the year now have a good explaination for why you never made it, while those of us born in the first half need to find another reason (my excuse: I was over the weight limit for my own age group when I was a kid, so I was playing against older kids anyway).

Looking at this, I was especially interested to see that there are five of the current squad born in December.

As if to prove that there is always an exception to every rule, there is even one player in the current squad born on the 31st of December.

If the theory is to be believed this is the single worst possible day for an aspiring rugby player to be born, as they will be the youngest candidate for every age-group team, constantly having to compete with kids who are older and therefor bigger and more co-ordinated etc.

So, for somebody born at the end of December to make it they must be an exceptional player.

That player: Richie McCaw.

Now that’s an outlier!



I just finished reading Malcolm Gladwell’s new book, called Outliers.

I recommend it.

Just like his previous two books (The Tipping Point & Blink) it’s full of great stories that will make you think a lot.  

For example:

  • Why are so many great sports people born in the first half of the year (more than half of the 45 All Blacks this year were born in January, February, March or April)?
  • Why are Asians generally better at maths?
  • Why is a pilot with a greater respect of authority more likely to have an accident?
  • What do The Beatles and Bill Gates have in common?

There is also a great section about the importance of meaningful work.  

He defines this as having:

  • Autonomy – i.e. you are your own boss
  • Complexity – i.e. you find the work engaging
  • A connection between effort and reward

Which of those criteria are you getting from your current job?

You can get a taste of all of this from his presentation from the Pop!Tech conference held earlier this year.

If you’re struggling to find a good gift this Christmas, you could do a lot worse than one of his books.

The Story of SuccessThe Power of Thinking Without ThinkingHow Little Things Can Make a Big Difference

And, for those of you who have already read the book, a question to think about – what have you spent 10,000 hours working at?

PS Garr Reynolds beat me to this post by about 12 hours and has lots of links to other Malcolm Gladwell presentations if you’re interested.

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